tv NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt NBC March 6, 2016 5:30pm-6:01pm PST
as mother to their two children, patty and ron, and as stepmother to his two children by former wife jane wyman. then came politics and her long career as a first lady. first in california to governor ronald reagan in 1966. >> what's ronnie's greatest asset for the women voters? >> i'll just say ronnie, i guess. >> reporter: then to president reagan in 1980. after the president was shot by a would-be
assassin just two months into his first term, his wife was forever shaken. >> every time he went out and talked to thousands of people, my heart stopped. >> reporter: but she carried on. steadfast in her chosen roles as the president's protector, best friend, and partner in efforts like the anti-drug campaign for which she was forever linked. >> when it comes to drugs and alcohol, just say no. criticized for consulting an astrologer about the president's schedule. dubbed queen nancy for her expensive tastes in fashion and white house decor, and accused of managing her husband. >> we're doing everything we can. >> we're doing everything we can. >> reporter: but the fact is she never wavered as a loving wife in all the ways she knew. and when in the mid '90s the then former president revealed he'd been diagnosed with alzheimer's disease, the partner who would rarely leave his side visited the republican national convention to share her family's pain and a new cause.
>> we learned, as too many other families have learned, of the terrible pain and loneliness that must be endured as each day brings another reminder of this very long good-bye. >> so nancy, let me say thank you for all you do, thank you for your love, and thank you for just being you. >> reporter: she stayed close to her ronnie even in her last years. she made it a point to be there when the reagan library hosted election year debates and to visit her husband's resting place. a love story to the very end. >> the importance of nancy reagan in her husband's life and his presidency cannot be overestimated. her influence included behind-the-scenes roles in some of the biggest issues the president faced. as we hear from our chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell. >> reporter: theirs was a love affair like few others and a political partnership that transformed a presidency. a first lady at first criticized for wearing
designer gowns during a recession. fiercely protective after the assassination attempt in 1981 that almost took her husband's life. >> as a result for the next seven years nancy reagan's ferocious number one priority was protect my husband. >> reporter: she talked ronald reagan into belatedly acknowledging the scourge of aids after their friend rock hudson was afflicted. and nancy reagan, along with maggie thatcher, changed history by encouraging the president to negotiate with what he had called the evil empire, the soviet union, and its new leader mikhail gorbachev. >> my problem for the first few years was they kept dying. >> reporter: their first summit over the objections of the powerful defense secretary caspar weinberger. >> he knew he could do a deal with gorbachev. he just needed to be allowed to do it. and she ran that interference for him. >> reporter: another critical moment -- reagan's comeback after the iran-contra scandal. >> different times in his presidency when
he'd gone astray or gotten too near the edge of the cliff she pulled him back from the edge of the cliff. >> reporter: tributes today not only from the obamas but from former presidents and first ladies. reagan's vice president george bush and barbara bush writing, "nancy reagan was totally devoted to president reagan and we take comfort that they will be reunited once more." jimmy carter and rosalind, who lost the white house to ronald reagan, writing, "her advocacy for stem cell research raised public awareness and influenced decision makers about vital research for alzheimer's disease." at the time running counter to republican orthodoxy. but nancy reagan knew her own mind and her heart. and both her mind and her heart were devoted to her beloved ronnie and his legacy. a legacy that they shared at a critical moment in history and world history. lester? >> andrea mitchell tonight. thank you. for more now on nancy reagan we're joined by a man who knew her well. james baker was chief of staff and later treasury secretary
under president reagan. mr. secretary, thank you so much for being with us and our condolences. i know your friendship with mrs. reagan was deep and long, and we thank you so much for being here. >> yes, it was, lester, and thank you for saying that. >> tell me what most people may not understand about nancy reagan and the relationship she had with her husband. >> well, i think they need to understand in addition to the exceptionally beautiful love story that they enjoyed that she was his closest adviser. but in addition to that she was his constant protector. he really had wonderful political and communications antenna. she was an expert at figuring out who in that white house was paddling their own canoe and who was working for the gipper. >> which makes me wonder, did she have good political instincts or just good
protective i protective instincts toward ronald reagan? >> she had both. she really had both. she was very protective of him. but she also had very good political instincts. and you know, she was very active in all of his campaigns for president beginning way back when. >> i've heard some describe it as that she would sometimes make those really hard calls. did she play the enforcer to his more genteel nature? >> well, i think that's a fair statement. she was tough. but she had to be tough. and i use that term in the very best way. president reagan was totally guileless. he never met a person he didn't trust or that he didn't like. and that was one of the secrets of his success, his optimism and his enthusiasm. >> how did you see her transform during those years that she was at his side while he struggled with alzheimer's and even the years after his death? >> she was the protector of his legacy and she -- even after he was gone she devoted her life to him. they had a very beautiful, exceptionally beautiful
relationship, love relationship, love story. >> secretary baker, i just want to thank you so much for taking the time and sharing your memories today. thanks for being here. >> you're sure welcome, lester. the ronald reagan presidential library outside los angeles is closed today, but that has not deterred many of those wishing to pay their respects or leave tributes to the former first lady. from simi valley, california here's nbc news national correspondent miguel almaguer. >> reporter: the library in simi valley, california bears his name, but this was always their place. today outside the closed gates flowers and flags, tributes and tears. >> there's just a strong feeling towards the reagan family. they did so much for our country. >> reporter: ronald and nancy reagan began planning the presidential library while he was still in office. they would check on its progress during stops to the western white house in santa barbara, where they had each other and all of nature's beauty. >> it was so pretty riding this morning. really pretty.
>> reporter: in 1988 the ground breaks. even in the dirt the first lady always added a touch of class and a bit of humor. the library would honor the president, who always cherished his wife. >> and of course my nancy. i don't know how to begin to describe what she means to me except to say i can't imagine life without her. >> reporter: the reagans picked this hilltop because of its sweeping views. he was presidential, but many say she made this place majestic. charlie winn brought his son henry to say good-bye. >> no question about it she's iconic. without question. she was much more than just a first lady. she was a symbol of the strength and vitality and pride of the united states. >> reporter: mrs. reagan will soon be buried next to her husband at the library. a special place on a hilltop with a view they loved in a country that loved them both even more. prior to the funeral service for nancy reagan, which is still in the planning process tonight, there
will be an opportunity for the public to come here to the presidential library. it is a place that the former first lady loved deeply and a place that will no doubt be packed with incredibly large crowds in the coming days. lester? >> all right. miguel, thank you. the presidential candidates took a short break from campaigning to offer their condolences and reflections today. in a joint statement bill and hillary clinton said, "her strength of character was legendary." senator bernie sanders called her "an exemplary first lady." among the republicans donald trump said mrs. reagan was "an amazing women." senator marco rubio tweeted about her integrity and grace while senator ted cruz praised her deep passion for this nation. governor john kasich said, "america and the reagan family have lost a woman of grace and strength." and we'll have more on nancy reagan and the enduring love story later in this broadcast. but as we turn now to the race for president, a series of major showdowns is coming this week and next for the candidates. the republicans are all descending on
florida as trump and cruz fight for number one and marco rubio tries to stay afloat. for the democrats sanders and clinton square off in their latest debate in flint, michigan. ahead of that state's primary this tuesday. that's where kristen welker starts our coverage tonight. kristen? >> reporter: lester, good evening. we're learning tonight that senator bernie sanders has won the maine caucus, giving him extra momentum. but secretary clinton is still firmly in the lead. all of this the backdrop of the democratic debate. bernie sanders and hillary clinton facing off in flint tonight after sanders clinched key victories saturday in kansas and nebraska. >> we will win in november if we have a large voter turnout. >> reporter: the wins giving sanders new momentum. but clinton still has the math. >> i've gotten more votes than anybody running on either side. i've gotten more votes than donald trump. >> reporter: today's
nbc news/"wall street journal" mayors poll shows clinton with a commanding 17-point lead in michigan, but both campaigns privately say the race is likely closer as sanders makes it clear he's not giving up. >> we are going to stay in this campaign until the convention in july. >> i introduce our next president -- >> reporter: clinton not taking anything for granted. today courting critical black voters here. >> we have to tear down the barrier of systemic racism. >> reporter: and dispatching her top surrogates. >> the only thing standing between her and victory in michigan is a low vote. >> reporter: with the controversy over her e-mails still looming. >> i think we're getting closer and closer to wrapping this up. >> reporter: and tonight sanders is expected to attack. not over clinton's e-mails but her past support for trade deals, unpopular in the industrial midwest where jobs are at stake. clinton preparing to paint herself as more practical. the mayor of flint, a clinton supporter, says residents still want answers from both candidates to the water crisis. >> we're really tired of living off of bottled water and filters, and we know
we need some long-term solutions. >> reporter: kristen welker, nbc news, flint, michigan. >> reporter: this is gabe gutierrez in florida, where donald trump today made a grand entrance at the world golf championships. teeing up a fierce fight on marco rubio's home turf. >> marco rubio had a very, very bad night. and personally, i'd call for him to drop out of the race. >> reporter: the billionaire frontrunner trouncing his rivals on super saturday in louisiana and kentucky. but ted cruz is surging after decisive wins in kansas and maine. now only 87 delegates behind trump. >> there's one campaign that has beat him not once, not twice, but five times. and that is our campaign. >> this is shaping up to be a two-person race because only donald trump and ted cruz have shown the ability to win repeatedly. >> reporter: the so-called establishment may not like cruz -- >> but if ted's the alternative to trump, he's at least a republican conservative. >> reporter: last night rubio finished fourth in maine and third everywhere else. >> we knew this would
be the roughest period in the campaign given the makeup of the electoral map. >> reporter: today he won puerto rico's primaries, scrounging for delegates. but he faces an uphill battle. on tuesday michigan votes and the latest nbc news/"wall street journal"/marist poll shows trump with a commanding lead. john kasich a distant fourth. >> john kasich! >> reporter: today he campaigned in his crucial home state of ohio with arnold schwarzenegger. >> we need to connect with one another because that's the spirit of america. that's where america lives. >> reporter: the ohio and florida primaries are just nine days away, shaping up to be last stands for both kasich and rubio. gabe gutierrez, nbc news, jacksonville, florida. when "nightly news" continues on this sunday, the new clues in the mystery of flight mh370 as loved ones gather to remember those lost two years ago this week. and later, flash floods being blamed for at least two deaths in california with much more severe weather on the way.
hundreds of people gathered in the capital of malaysia today to mark two years since the disappearance of flight mh370. they're hoping the discovery of more debris may begin to yield some answers. bill neely reports from malaysia tonight. ♪ how i wish you were here ♪ >> reporter: two years of pain and loss were marked today with songs and tears. families of those on board releasing balloons, one for each of the 239 lives lost in the greatest
airline mystery of our time. also here the american who's just found plane debris off africa. >> my heart was pounding. i was very excited. >> reporter: blaine gibson has been probing the mystery for a year and is still amazed he found something. >> at least it raises the awareness that people need to be looking at the beaches. we need clues. we have very few. >> reporter: another amateur who found the only confirmed piece from the plane on reunion island last summer has also found more debris. it too is being analyzed. for grace nathan whose mother ann was on board, every new twist is new agony. >> it ranges from confusion to anger to sadness to anticipation. >> reporter: time hasn't healed? >> no, it hasn't healed at all. >> reporter: off australia, teams searching a vast swath of ocean have found nothing and are just months away from finishing. after two years of failing to find the
plane the families here say the searchers must think again because they may be looking in the wrong area. but above all they say the search must go on. >> don't give up. don't give up. there must be someday, somewhere, some way we will find out the truth. >> reporter: a truth still buried like the grief of so many families two years on. bill neely, nbc news, kuala lumpur in malaysia. when we come back, the end of an era for a football legend.
another round of heavy rain forecast for the beginning of the week could bring more flooding and rock slides, especially in areas scorched by wildfires. more cases reported this weekend of a mysterious bacterial infection that has killed 18 people and made dozens more sick in wisconsin. the cdc is increasing its staff there as it tries to figure out what's causing the spread of the bacteria known as elizabethkingia. most of those who have come down with it are over 65 and have underlying health conditions. symptoms include fever, shortness of breath and skin infections. one of the nfl's most iconic figures, peyton manning, has told the denver broncos he's retiring. the star quarterback is the league's all-time leader in that position with a record 200 wins and the most passing yards. manning is calling it quits after 18 nfl seasons, most of them with the indianapolis colts. last month he of course led the broncos to victory in super bowl 50. we're back in a moment with the love story that was the life of nancy and ronald reagan.
the death of nancy reagan today brought the closing chapter of a powerful love story. it began in hollywood, continued in the white house, and often played out on the world stage as well. and as harry smith reports, it endured all the way to the end. >> reporter: nancy reagan was a contract actress when she met the dashing head of the screen actors guild, ronald reagan. as they sat down to dinner, each claimed
to have an early call the next day. an old actor's excuse in case things didn't go well. no such insurance was needed. march 4th marked 64 years since their wedding day. when you look at pictures of nancy and ronald reagan from their days in california to their time in the white house, they so often look like lovestruck kids, soulmates, the love of each other's life. this is a letter from the president to mrs. reagan pulled from an nbc special. mrs. reagan reads. >> dear first lady, as president of the united states it's my honor and privilege to cite you for service above and beyond the call of duty and that you have made one man, me, the most happy man in the world for 29 years. >> reporter: they were inseparable, steadfast, especially in times of trial. through the assassination attempt. her breast cancer. >> i'll say welcome home. >> reporter: alzheimer's disease. through sickness and health. till death do us part.
that was ronnie and nancy. some years after the president's death mrs. reagan told "vanity fair," "i miss ronnie a lot, an awful lot. people say it gets better. no, it does not." their love explained best by the president himself, who wrote to mrs. reagan, "i'm not whole without you. you are life itself to me." that is a love story. harry smith, nbc news, new york. >> and that's nbc "nightly news" for this sunday. i'm lester holt reporting from new york. i'll see you later tonight for "dateline." in the meantime, for all of us here at nbc news, good night.
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nbc bay area news begins with a microclimate weather alert. a lot of flooded roads and creeks that are cresting rpgs downed power lines and trees and last night's storm brought a little bit of everything and now a second storm is rolling through the bay area. we are tracking this rain so you know exactly what to expect tonight. good evening to you. i'm peggy bunker. >> i'm terry mcsweeney. we're under a microclimate weather alert. you are looking live at our cameras in san francisco and san jose. darker in san francisco than in san jose, but you can see the clouds in both pictures and the winds are picking up and rain is headed this way. we have team conk for you. christie smith standing by with what's being gone to protect our power and rob mayeda has a breakdown of what to expect in the next few hours. b?